Playa Grande comprises over 2,000 acres of mostly undeveloped land along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Conceived as a retreat for New York-based clients working in creative, media, or business fields, Playa Grande represents a unique opportunity for Richard Meier and Partners to develop a vision for the overall organization of the nascent resort community as well as contribute designs for a range of building types.
The master plan for Playa Grande calls for a variety of accommodations and amenities, which includes two hotels, luxury villas, and more modest bungalow-like structures, as well as an equestrian center, retail and cultural space, and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course. These are arrayed throughout the site in a manner that aims to preserve the rustic character of the area while providing a modern, innovative, and refined built environment. Each component of the site is characterized by various levels of density and scale as well as a palette of materials defined by a set of guidelines to be developed in concert with a board of collaborating architects and artists.
Of the site’s various components, three residential scenarios at different scales will be the first to be developed: the Beach Village and Artists’ Colony, which is composed of retail and other public spaces, and modestly scaled houses loosely organized by a Mercator-derived grid; prototypes for two large-scale Highland Estate Houses; and a Village Perimeter House prototype, which is designed to occupy the buffer zone of earth berms and dense landscaping that defines the boundary of the Beach Village and Artists’ Colony.
Within this distinct perimeter, the Beach Village and Artists’ Colony operates as a largely pedestrian zone sequestered from surrounding vehicular circulation and the open public space of the beachfront. While the organizational grid defines blocks within which individual houses are situated, the arrangement of these houses is not uniform either in number or orientation. Rather, each block can accommodate a variety of housing configurations. Each block also features linking elements, or “stitches”, connecting to adjacent blocks. These stitches will satisfy any number of public functions, including public gardens, water features, art installations, gallery space, and two areas for retail functions. Each of these retail areas maintains its own character and program: “The Marketplace” features a open-air shed-roof structure with flexible market and exhibition space; “Cliffside” features a performance space, a community swimming pool, and a large courtyard surrounded by restaurants. These public zones are connected to each other by irregular paths and a promenade along the beach.
While the Beach Village and Artists’ Colony is loosely organized to absorb housing concepts (and other structures) developed by other architects and artists, Richard Meier & Partners has created five prototype plans, each featuring generous studio space: the Butterfly House, the Deck House, the Tower House, the Cube House, and the Modular House. These will range from 50 to 200 square meters, and each will adhere to the use of a modernist vocabulary of materials as well as the application of indigenous materials, particularly wood, in a refined manner that achieves the highest design standards while also responding to the context of the tropical landscape.